Patrons flocked to Forsyth County’s libraries as every branch opened back up to the public, with some restrictions, on Monday, June 15.
Library Director Anna Lyle said that their first day opening the branches was successful. Lyle said she and staff members were not looking forward to having to limit the number of patrons coming into each location and asking people to wait outside, but she said visitors have been coming at all different times of day and spreading out.
“It’s really been a perfect day,” Lyle said. “People have been all spread out. They’ve all come in kind of with different things to do, so everybody’s been able to come inside with no wait.”
With the reopening, branches have reduced hours, seating areas have been taken out and computers moved around to encourage social distancing. Plexiglass panes stand between libraries and patrons at the checkout counters. Meeting rooms are closed off, and the branches are closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays to allow for curbside pickup appointments only.
Branches are also not continuing with in-person programs yet as Lyle said they usually draw in large crowds into one location, but she said they will keep up with their online programs to stay engaged with patrons, especially kids looking for a summer reading program.
“Not having the programs is a disappointment, but it does help space people out more consistently throughout the day,” Lyle said. “With the governor’s most recent order, you can have 50 people, but that isn’t necessarily what we would choose to do like with a big group of kids. Kids are not so good at social distancing.”
While the Forsyth County Public Library system administration feels these measures are necessary to keep patrons safe, Lyle said she wanted to open the libraries back up mainly to start offering computer access again to those who may need it.
Lyle said that despite Forsyth County’s overall affluence, not everyone has access to a computer or other materials that they may need to apply for jobs or for government help. While patrons have a 30-minute computer time limit, Lyle said they are also expanding times right now for those who need it.
“You know if you’re applying for a job online or filling out some kind of government form, those things take longer than 30 minutes, so we had already been very prepared to be flexible,” Lyle said.
Since opening, Lyle said patrons have been happy getting back to browsing for their own books and materials and interacting again with library staff. While the system’s new curbside pickup service has been successful, some residents are tired of using strictly online services.
Some have said that they miss simply browsing on their own, and others have missed the relationship that they have with library staff. Lyle said that on the first day of opening, one of their regulars brought flowers for the librarians to celebrate.
Lyle said that they plan to continue with the current branch hours and measures that they now have in place for the foreseeable future. She said that if the curbside service slows down, they may open the libraries on Tuesdays and Thursdays again, but for now, she is unsure of any future plans. She does hope that they will be able to loosen restrictions sooner rather than later while still keeping patrons safe.
“We’re really looking forward to when we can do more in person,” Lyle said.